The Organic Trade Association has announced that it will be establishing its own version of the organic checkoff program abandoned by the USDA three months ago. The program will be funded by voluntary payments from industry stakeholders and will operate without USDA oversight.
“The Organic Trade Association recognizes great demand for coordinated organic research and promotion, and the organic sector is ready to work together on innovative solutions that will have key benefits for organic,” Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director for the Organic Trade Association, said in a press release.
The OTA has formed a subcommittee dedicated to its new organic checkoff program, operating under the banner Generate Results and Opportunity for Organic (GRO). The committee will address governance issues related to the program.
“We are just beginning the process to build the framework and develop the goals for this voluntary check-off, but it will address the needs to promote the organic brand, educate consumers about organic, and provide the assistance — research, technical and more — necessary to help more farmers transition to organic,” Batcha told The Packer.
Batcha explained that the communication strategies developed by the program will focus on highlighting the positive attributes of organic products, rather than criticizing non-organic items. The GRO committee currently has a goal of raising $2 million over two years towards Organic Voices’ “It’s Not Complicated” campaign, in order to educate consumers about the value of organic.
“Everyone in our organic industry has a stake in eliminating consumer confusion, growing the market, and building the organic brand, so we’ll work collectively to ensure the future of organic,” Batcha said.
The OTA expects the GRO subcommittee will open a comment period this fall to solicit industry opinions on organization.
The announcement in May to terminate the development of a USDA-overseen organic checkoff program “blindsided” the organic industry, reports FoodNavigator-USA. The program had been in development for five years at the time.
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